LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A Hollywood man was arrested Thursday on federal charges that he operated a drone which slammed into a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter back in September, forcing it to make an emergency landing.
Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, was arrested by FBI agents on one count of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reports.
Authorities say it’s the first criminal case in the nation in which a person has been charged with unsafely operating a drone.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 18, an LAPD helicopter was responding to a burglary call at a Hollywood pharmacy when it was struck by a drone, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing.
The collision damaged the chopper’s nose, antenna and bottom cowlings, prosecutors alleged in a criminal complaint.
“If the drone had struck the helicopter’s main rotor instead of the fuselage, it could have brought the helicopter down,” the criminal complaint reads.
After striking the chopper, the drone fell to the ground at another residence nearby to Hernandez’s home, the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges. It also damaged a vehicle, and pieces of it were found by LAPD officers near the pharmacy.
Investigators reviewed the drone’s camera and SD card to identify Hernandez as its owner.
In late October, FBI agents raided Hernandez’s home, during which he admitted that on the morning of the incident, he had heard approaching sirens and decided to fly the drone “to see what was going on,” prosecutors said.
It’s unclear exactly what time of prison time Hernandez could face if convicted as charged. He is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon in downtown L.A. federal court.